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In functionalist theory, the term integration is fundamental, and describes ‘a mode of relation of the units of a system by virtue of which, on the one hand, they act so as collectively to avoid disrupting the system and making it impossible to maintain its stability, and, on the other hand, to “co-operate” to promote its functioning as a unity’ (Talcott Parsons, Essays in Sociological Theory, 1954). In other theoretical traditions it is often used more loosely as a synonym for social consensus. David Lockwood has distinguished social integration, in the narrow sense of the integration of individuals, from system integration. See also equilibrium; system integration and social integration.

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